Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That was fast: F. Martinella is closing

Back in October, Boar's Head decided to try their hand at a retail shop in Downtown Brooklyn with the old-timey sounding and looking "F. Martinella" deli. I guess people weren't eating enough hoagies to cover the $125 a foot rent, 'cause I passed by there this morning and saw guys loading unopened blocks of ham and turkey into a truck. On the way home, my suspicions were confirmed when I saw the windows taped over. Despite the misleading claim that they had been in business since 1949 (Boar's Head was actually started in 1903, and if you count the kiosk at JFK, F. Martinella had been in business only a few years, tops), they actually lasted only 10 months. Ha ha! But is anyone surprised? The food was bland and the neighborhood didn't need another deli (let alone one that was way too fancy for its own britches).

Don't let the neighborhood hit you on the way out, and good riddance.

And just for the record, this is our second food-related scoop concerning the block of Court Street between State and Schermerhorn

[photo credits: brownstoner.com and comestibles.com]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Old Jews Telling Jokes

This is my new favorite site. It's pretty self-explanatory - every few days, they post another Old Jew telling joke. Here is today's:


Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Words

I am too stunned to have anything witty to say about this.

Hat tip to one of FlappyDays' main bros, Baldric the Flatulent.

UPDATE: Welcome Thighs Wide Shut folks! Have a look around and make yourselves at home. We're on a pretty sporadic update schedule here at Flappy Days, so add us to RSS feed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Think

This is absolutely infuriating.

Over 75% of Americans now (actually, as of 10 months ago) believe that gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in our military. The armies of 13 major countries, including 3 of our closest allies, one of whom is arguably the greatest man-for-man fighting force of the modern age, all allow open service. And our President campaigned on the promise that he would end this ridiculous policy that does nothing but harm our national security and the lives of the brave men and women volunteers who are fired because of it. Since 9/11, the US Army has fired at least 59 Arab linguists because of their sexual orientation - how is this sane military policy? To paraphrase Jon Stewart, you can torture them all you like, but that's not going to make them speak English.

I was a huge supporter of the President during the election, but I am not so partisan that I cannot call it like I see it....

Mr. President, tear down this wall.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Auto-Tune the News (Part Trois)

Auto-Tune - you've heard it even if you don't realize it. It's that vocal manipulation that Cher made famous in her 1998 club banger "Believe" and that T-Pain and Kanye West have determined to cram in our ear holes from every available speaker on Earth. Well, Michael Gregory and his crew have finally put it to good use with their "Auto-Tune the News" series. Parts 1 and 2 are already all over the tubes, Part 3 dropped today. Enoy:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Berlin Street Art

Over the last few years, street art has exploded all over the world. Once the refuge of graffiti taggers, street art has expanded to include all sorts of media including the now-ubiquitous wheat-paste images you see on buildings and other urban surfaces. Which brings me to MentalGassi, a Berlin-based street art collective who redefine and reinterpret all sort of mundane surfaces in and around that city. Enjoy some samples and check out their site for more works.

Album Review: Staff Benda Bilili

This isn't so much an album review as an album recommendation. I never really understood the concept of album reviews. Like Elvis Costello once said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." Anyway, I was up in Rhinebeck, NY last weekend and strolled into Oblong Books & Music (check it out if you're up there - great selection). There was some king of African music playing on the house system, and it immediately got into my head - I asked the guy at the desk what it was and he introduced me to Staff Benda Bilili. I've been listening to the album every day since. Staff Benda Bilili is a group of Congolese street musicians. Loosely translated, the group's name means "the people who look beyond appearances". The band consists of four elder paraplegic singers/guitarists, all of whom zip through Kinshasa on these super tricked-out tricycles, to which they have been confined since their youthful bouts with polio. The rhythm section is comprised of a group of abandoned street kids known as shégués (a term which may or may not have derived from Che Guevara), all of whom have been taken under the protection of the older members. The most distinctive sound on the album comes from a satongé, a one-string lute made from a milk-powder tin, a section of fish basket frame and a single electrical wire, designed and played with virtuosity by 18 year-old Roger Landu.

Evidently, the album was recorded over a period of about three years, with most of the songs recorded out in the open, mainly in the local zoo (!!), using a dozen microphones, a MacBook laptop and a guerrilla electric cable hooked up to a deserted bar nearby. (See below)

The album is infectious and fun - highly recommended. Check out some samples via the youtubes below. The first clip is a trailer for an upcoming documentary on the band.

Really Cool Things: MIT Labs "Sixth Sense" Prototype

No, it's not the ability to see dead people. It's a new device developed by MIT's Fluid Interfaces group, headed by associate professor of Media Technology Patty Maes. According to the group's website:
'SixthSense' is a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information.
For those of you who don't speak Nerd, it is a prototype cobbled together with a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera that essentially projects information about an object on any surface. For example, don't have a calculator handy? Well, just project one on your hand.

Need to know the time, but don't have a cell phone (no cell phone? who the hell are you, the Unibomber?) and are too shy to ask your fellow citizen?

There are all sorts of possible applications - and many of them are demonstrated in the interesting (albeit somewhat long - 8 minutes) lecture and presentation posted below that Maes and a student in the Fluid Interfaces group gave to the TED (Technology, Education and Design) Conference. Side note: the Fluid Interfaces group has a website that showcases a number of other "really cool things" in development, and the TED website has great library of interesting lectures on a multitude of topics. Without further ado:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More of this: Musical Flash Mobs

Yes, it's an ad, but give credit where it's due (thanks T-Mobile) - I think life is better with musical flash mobs. 13,000 people singing Hey Jude at once? C'mon, that is cool.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother Lovers

Justin Timberlake should quit with the guest appearances and just join the cast of SNL already. He's consistently the best thing on it. He and Andy Samberg wreck the joint, again.

Happy Mother's Day!

Today, I am old

I guess it happens to everyone at some point - that moment where you feel like the world has leapfrogged you and all of a sudden you are on the other side of the impregnable wall between youth and adulthood. Now, I don't mean to say that we have to "act" old, or that we can't be youthful all the way into our elderly years. A lot of my friends have recently started complaining about how "old" we are. No, my 102 year-old grandmother is old. We, at most, are middle-aged (my contemporaries and I are in our mid-30s). But the other day I did have to confront the very real fact that popular culture may be passing me by. To wit: I subscribe via my RSS feed to Brosephus' twitter account. I don't have my own Twitter account, as the entire endeavor doesn't appeal to me, but I like knowing what my brother is up to. So, a couple days ago I see this:
much love to @jodaplumber*, the 1st person in the history of my twitterlife to #followfriday me. he will never be #unfollowfriday, not on my watch
To which I replied: "This must be what Dad feels like. Please translate." I had to confront the fact that my reaction to this media phenomenon to which millions upon millions of new people subscribe every day was really no different than the one my grandmother has to my iPhone. It was a bit disconcerting, but then I saw this clip below, and felt much better:

*not his real name

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Best Banana Ice Cream....EVER

Last night the Wifey and I went out with my college roommate M. and his wife L. to eat at Fort Greene newcomer The General Greene. The restaurant is a small-plates affair, and the food was decent, but nothing really to write home to blog about. What was noteworthy, however, was dessert (Well, my dessert, at least. The Wifey had a chocolate pudding that she ate slowly in order to "trick myself into thinking that the next bite might actually be delicious").

I ordered the roasted banana ice cream. Now, perhaps my bar is set too low for banana ice cream. I'm often disappointed, as the majority of producers use clearly artificial banana flavoring. But The General Greene (named after THE General Greene of the original Fort Greene) make their ice cream in-house, and use real bananas. It was AMAZING. Delicious. Scrumptious. Literally, I licked the bowl. In public. That kind of good. So good that I asked them if they could pack a to-go bag of ice cream for me. (M. suggested I go to the nearby bodega, buy a gallon of regular ice cream and carve out a carrying case for my booty.)

Well, needless to say, I didn't get my to-go bag. But I can still taste that ice cream, and I will be back for more soon enough. Only this time, I might just skip dinner and get to the good stuff.

Make money, make money, money, money

Man, they really can get away with anything in Germany, can't they? This is a commercial for BonTrust Bank. The agency created an entire 3-D world using banknotes from all over the world and origami techniques. Pretty cool. Also, crazy explicit - I don't think I can wash the image of Lincoln getting a plowchop* out of my brain. Also, Mao is a serious player.

*Imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now imagine his accent. Now imagine him saying "blowjob." As in "Maria, I would like a plowchop tonight." Credit to Flappy Days' friend Tony S for sharing that with us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

R.I.P.: Dom Deluise

Dominick "Dom" DeLuise passed away yesterday, and it makes me sad. Dom played a large (no pun or disrespect intended) role in my formative years as a consumer of pop culture. I remember him most fondly for two movies in particular: 1) his chummy portrayal of Victor Prinzim in Cannonball Run (and it's sequel "II") and as the crow Jeremy in the animated classic The Secret of Nimh.
At the time, the early 80's, he seemed to appear in almost everything that came to the screen (at least in my limited purview): the oft-forgotten, Dudley Moore biblical farce Wholly Moses!, The Muppet Movie, Smokey and the Bandit II (where he further cemented his relationship as Burt Reynold's on-screen best friend), Johnny Dangerously, Spaceballs and the movie for which he got most of his serious accolades, Fatso. Perhaps what I loved most about those movies were the outtakes at the end of the Cannonball Run movies, the first time time the curtain was ever pulled back from the Hollywood wizard for me. Dom always seemed to be having such a great time, I wanted to be a part of the fun.

Like Tim Russert and Scatman Crothers before him, I'll miss Dom DeLuise as if I had actually known him, and the world will be a little less funny without him. Rest in Peace, Mr. DeLuise.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Introducing the Q Drum - a New Way to Transport Water

Behold, the Q Drum. This is a wonderful new innovation that is starting to be used in Third World nations to alleviate injuries of water-carrying women in those areas. See below for a short film that describes the invention in more detail. Bonus feature: music composed by Dave "Duke Mushroom" Schommer of Yoga Organix, friend of Flappy Days.

Happy Birthday to Us

A year ago today, a blog was born (that would be us). It's been an interesting first year, marked by a variety of highlights, both on and off-blog. For example, I got married (off blog, thankfully). Also, Brosephus was so distraught about the closing of Jermaine Dupree's waffle house that he's been in hiding since August. (Actually, he's been hard at work on his other blog, an Atlanta-centric offering that we will not link to in an effort to maintain our flimsy anonymity).

I've read that the first sign of a blog's demise is navel-gazing and self-deprecation with regard to a lack of posting. So I'll only mention in passing that while we started strong, we've sort of fallen off the cliff with regard to regularity (64% of all of our posts were created in our first 2 months of existence). But it ain't about quantity, it's quality - right, People? We're the ones who brought you all sorts of Really Cool Things, wrote a few Movie Reviews, gave props to some "celebrities" who died, and reported on Facial Hair, among many other exciting topics. And don't forget our first scoop!

So, here's to us. May we live long and prosper. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mapping the Time it Takes to Get from Here to There (NYC Edition)

Introducing TripTropNYC, a handy website that let's you plug in an address anywhere in the five boroughs of New York City and determine how long it will take for you to get anywhere else in the city. Pretty nifty. Between this, the MTA Trip Planner and Google Maps, I will never be late (or early) again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

News of the Bizarre: Fir Tree Grows in Man's Lung

No, I did not find this in the Weekly World News, although there is a fascinating cover story there this week about a octopus-shaped UFO flying over Rio de Janeiro. No, this is a true story about a Russian botanist complaining of chest pains. Doctors thought he had cancer, but instead found a 5 cm FIR TREE GROWING IN HIS LUNG!! Daaaaayum, that's gotta hurt. The doctors theorize that since Artyom Sidorkin studied plants for a living, he probably inhaled (snorted? come clean Artyom, fir seeds are the hot new craze sweeping the central Russian steppe) a seed which took root in his lung. Since fir seeds need little light and only a moist environment to grow, PRESTO - chia lung! This next photo is not for the faint of heart.

Also, look at us go - three posts in one day. That's like the entire output of January. Whoohoo.


[Spoiler Alert - here be spoilers]

I was really excited for UFC 97 this weekend - the main card (and undercard) were chock full 'o fights I was amped to see - Liddell/Rua, Silva/Leites, Quarry/Macdonald, Wiman/Stout, and especially the prodigal return of David "the Crow" Loiseau to lock horns with Ed "Short Fuse" Herman. Unfortunately, the event was a huge sad trombone for me. First, I purchased the PPV and had my DVR all set up (I miss TiVo.) Last night some friends came over to watch the event with the Wifey and I, and when we queued up the taped event, all we got was 15 hours of UFC promo material. After a frustrated call to DirecTV, I learned that UFC is no longer allowing PPV purchasers the ability to record their purchases. Bullocks! So, rather than let the night go to waste, I asked them to credit my account and purchase the event for that evening, which they did, except instead of HD they fed me SD. Ok, not that huge of a deal, but still annoying. Even more annoying is that we came into the event 1.5 hours in. This would have bugged me more, but the Wifey and I caught the first 3 fights at a bar the night before and they were all BORE-fests (including the Cheick Kongo fight. Snooze.)

We tuned in literally at the moment Shogun Rua put the lights out on Chuck Liddell's illustrious career, which would have been a little more exciting if we had at least seen the first 4 minutes of the fight. The rest of the evening wasn't much better. Not only did they not air the Quarry or Loiseau fights (boo), but the Silva main event was the most painfully boring 15 minutes I've spent in a long time. Leites was mercilessly outmatched, and spent most of the fight lying on his back like a gimp turtle, waiting for Silva to fall into his warm embrace. The one saving grace of the evening was the Wiman/Stout fight - both Stout and Wiman (who is really fighting the pretty, just accept your Abercrombie good looks, Matty!) put it all on the line and gave a really good show.

Eh, I guess there's always next time.

[Click to Enlarge]

I keed! I keed! Chuck Liddell is a great champion and deserves a lot of respect and admiration - happy retirement, Chuck!

Really Cool Things: Danny MacAskill, Bicyclist Extraordinaire

The human ability to invent new things and to push the boundaries of excellence in those endeavors is a beautiful thing to behold. Exhibit A - Danny MacAskill, a rider with the Inspired Bicycles team of Edinburgh, Scotland. The video below really gets going around 0:45 and then proceeds for another 5 minutes of jaw-dropping awesomeness.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New York Past and Present

Back in 2004, photographer Douglas Levere set out to find the New York City depicted in Bernice Abbot's Changing New York and highlight just how much had actually changed since the 1930s. I've posted below a sampling of what he found. If you like what you see, Levere's book (New York Changing: Revisiting Bernice Abbot's New York) is available on Amazon. You can also see more photos from the book at The Morning News.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Considering all the debate and discussion lately about taxes, spending, deficits, revenues, etc. etc., I thought it was mighty helpful of the good people over at Wall Stats to produce this visual breakdown of how much money the federal government brings in (revenues) and how much it doles out (spending), to whom and in what amounts. If you can't see the detail here, go over to the large size image on the Wall Stats site, it's pretty fascinating. Now that I see it broken down into such detail, the next question become pretty obvious - where would start cutting? Comments welcome.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cool Advertising - "Checkmate"

Generally, I'm not that interested in advertising. Most of the time, my internal filter completely blocks it out (when my TiVo isn't doing it for me). But sometimes, a great ad is worth noting. To wit:

[Hat tip: TheDanzaTap]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

When Joaquin met Billy

Via our friend Dan at MotionPhi, here is the long-lost interview between Billy Bob Thornton and Joaquin Phoenix you haven't seen yet:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Really Cool Things: World Builder

First of all, if you're a new reader who found us because of the Busy Chef/Checker's linkage, welcome. We're not the most attentive bloggers around, so if you want updates, best to add us to an RSS feed rather than visit daily in the vain hopes that we've updated the blog. Chances are, we haven't (as you can see by the frequency of our postings).

The video below is called "World Builder". The description from Vimeo:

"A strange man builds a world using holographic tools for the woman he loves."

This award winning short was created by filmmaker Bruce Branit, widely known as the co-creator of '405'. World Builder was shot in a single day followed by about 2 years of post production. Branit is the owner of Branit VFX based in Kansas City.

It's short, it's sweet and it's damn cool. Enjoy.

Via Andrew Sullivan (like many of the cool things I come by in an average week).

Monday, April 6, 2009

Our First Scoop!! Checker's Restaurant Coming to Court Street

For years after I moved to Downtown Brooklyn, the storefront at 111 Court Street was a boarded up former bar/nightclub. So, you can imagine my excitement when they started building out what would become Busy Chef (and also Blue Pig Ice Cream). Excitement quickly turned to disappointment when a) the food sucked and b) it turned out the owner was running an identity theft scam on his customers. Not cool, dude. That was last July, and the joint has been shuttered up ever since. Until now. A few weeks ago, it appeared that construction had begun for a new tenant. As I was walking to work this morning, the door was open and two men were looking over plans, so I asked them what was coming in. Ladies and gentlemen, your new neighbor is:

Checker's Restaurant

They also mentioned they'd be serving vegan burgers, although I don't see those listed on the corporate site.

So... Excited? Disappointed? Indifferent? Let us know. And remember, you heard it here first.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Really Cool Things: Kutiman's YouTube Video/Audio Album

Once in a while, you see something so new and cool that you don't really know how to categorize it, how to wrap your brain around the experience. That's how I felt when I first saw ThruYOU last week, the debut "album" of seven "songs" by Israel artist Kutiman (born Ophir Kutiel). The project consists of seven tracks that Kutiman assembled over the course of a few months by dissecting and combining youtube videos of various music clips, a Capella performances, random images and sound elements, with the final tracks spanning a variety of genres. The result is something so fresh and new it has to be experienced to be felt. I've posted my favorite three below, but do yourself a favor and go to the website to see the others.

Mother of All Funk Chords:

I'm New:



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen? I did.

[SPOILER ALERT] These are my reactions to Watchmen. If you haven’t seen it, and want to, you might not want to read this. Also, I’m assuming anyone who reads this is familiar with the story, so there will no exposition of plot. Keep up. [/SPOILER ALERT]

Like the good comic book geek that I am, on Thursday I went to the midnight showing of “Watchmen”, along with every nerd and his mother in downtown Brooklyn. I went to the show with a group of college buddies, a few of whom had been responsible for me reading the comic in the first place, about which I later went on to write my undergraduate thesis. So, as you might expect, my expectations were high. Or at least they would have been if I hadn’t spent the last 9 months in near monk-like meditation keeping them at appropriately realistic levels. I figured that if I kept them low, I wouldn’t be too disappointed when Zack Snyder failed to achieve in a movie what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons had achieved with the comic.

Well, he didn’t and I wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself or that he completely missed the mark, because neither of those things are true. Anyway, without further ado, some of my thoughts on the movie:

All in all, I was really pleased with the casting. You can tell Snyder loves the book by how closely (in most cases) he tries to match actor to their source material. This is most notable in the casting of Moloch, played by Max Headroom (glad to see they let him out of the box to do some work). I also thought that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was a great choice for Edward Blake/Comedian – he looked the part and gave a pretty solid performance, and any failings in his ability to convey Blake’s nihilism I attribute to Snyder’s inability to direct actors. One nitpick (others to follow... I did write a fucking book about this thing, after all): his scar was impossible to see! It was there, but not distinguishable in most scenes from regular wrinkles/creases. This really bugged me for some reason. And in general, the make-up (notably, the old age make-up of Sally Jupiter and Janey Slater) was pretty sub-par, especially for a movie that dedicated itself so thoroughly to recreating as faithfully as possible the look and feel of the comic. What, did they run out of money in the budget from over-animating Bill Crudup’s little Smurf wang? (Actually, “little” is inaccurate. Doc Manhattan is swinging some serious pipe, and often – those dismayed by the lack of full frontal male nudity in films will be pleased with how often Big Blue appears on screen.)

I was very pleased with Billy Crudup and the rendering of Doc Manhattan, which was one of the more exciting aspects of the book brought to life. Of course, the real winner, and the guy everyone will be talking about, is former Bad News Bear Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, whose performance was phenomenal and without question the best of the movie. Really, he is probably the all around best part of the movie, which is apt because Rorschach is also the anchor of the book. And the animation of his mask was perfectly executed.

Probably my favorite bit of casting of the main cast was actually Patrick Wilson as Night Owl II. Sure, he could have been a bit flabbier, but in general I though he really captured Dreiberg’s look and pathos. And, with all of the other more discussion-worthy characters (for good or bad), I imagine he will get overlooked. As for Malina Akerman as Silk Spectre II, I was not nearly as bothered by her performance as many others seem to be. Visually, at least, I thought she was spot on and the slight tweak to her costume was an improvement over the original.

My real problem was Matthew (not so) Goode as Ozymandias. Not only did I think he was miscast based purely on physical appearance – Goode is young, thin, British and I think of Ozymandias as a much more imposing, Aryan, corn-fed, middle-aged, running back-sized dude – but his (Snyder’s?) choice to play Adrian as a fey, emo, arch supervillain seemed to really miss the mark, and in general every scene in which he appeared made me cringe. And because of his cartoon-evil approach, I felt like it was really no surprise when we “find out” in the end that he is the center of the conspiracy.

So, speaking of the ending, it should be discussed. There will be lots of ink spilled on this – was it a good change? a bad change? etc. – so, I’ll throw my two cents into the pot:

I understand why the change was made, I really do. Maybe the original ending was too “comic-y” or unrealistic and Snyder didn’t think audiences would relate to a giant squid. But was the change necessary? I’m not so certain. I think those who insist it *had* to be a giant squid miss the point – the important thing is that there is an alien threat, not what type of alien threat. The unintended consequence of the new ending is that by using Jon, instead of alien, it drains the moment of it’s impact, because instead of some extra-terrestrial danger that makes man see how much they have in common with one another, instead we have Jon, who is (or was) human. Using Jon instead of the squid also creates a dynamic that didn’t exist in the comic – now Doc Manhattan betrays his home country – and I don’t think it’s ever explained why he would do that. The more I think about it, they never really explain why those explosions are automatically assumed to be from Doc Manhattan or why they are immediately taken as malicious or punitively intended.

And for a film that certainly did not shy away from being graphic, I think the final scene without the mounds of dead bodies removes some of the human element from the finale that strikes the reader of the comic book so emotionally.

Part of this is due to our being so involved in the lives of the secondary characters in the book. Really, I didn’t have a problem generally with eliminating a lot of the secondary characters and subplots – I understand they would have made the film too unwieldy – but getting to know these other characters lends a weight and poignancy to the finale that is missing from the film. We have no connection to real people in the movie and so the finale has no human face to sympathize with, especially since we only see the destruction of New York City (more “New York destruction porn”. Interesting tho - they leave the Twin Towers standing, evidently in the fervent desire to avoid allusions to 9/11).

One last thought on the ending: by cutting that last scene with Adrian and Jon, where Adrian admits to Jon he’s not sure if he did the right thing, we are robbed of the guilt and uncertainty Adrian feels, which is so important to the book that they weave in the largely “unnecessary” pirate story just to drive the point home. Without that final scene, we are left with no possibility that his decision haunted him, just some evil scientist cackling in purple robes.


Warning: here there be nitpicks. C’mon, you know I have some. If you don’t like them, skip to the next paragraph. As a general comment, in light of how faithful to the original work Snyder strived to be (even using the comic as an actual storyboard) I was a little confused about some of the minor changes he made. Like, why not have an older Captain Metropolis at the original Crimebusters meeting? Why leave the futuristic developments that Jon had brought about (smokeless tobacco, electric cars, etc. And the lack of electric cars makes the sign outside of Hollis’ shop a bit anachronistic). Why not have a dome for Karnak instead of the rectangular greenhouses that replaced it? Why not have Dan and Rorschach approach Karnak on those hover segways (or whatever they were)? The sugar cubes? The Nostalgia bottle? Why not put Jon’s picture at Gila Flats, rather than in a picture frame by Janey’s bed? If Snyder had such devotion to casting, why not get an older, beardless little person to play Big Picture? Why, in such an insanely (blissfully) faithful recreation of the first scene, leave out the Policeman’s great tag-on to Rorschach’s voiceover “and they have nothing to say….” – “That’s quite a drop”? Why change Adrian’s dialogue at the climax from “Do it?… I did it 25 minutes ago” to “Do it?…I triggered it 25 minutes ago” (see, I told you these were nitpicks) – that one minor change bled a lot of the impact out of what should be the biggest plot twist in the story. These little details seem like they would not have detracted at all from the casual viewer’s experience, but would have enhanced the viewing experience of the hard core fan. Are these minor deviations Snyder’s way of putting his own spin on things? Seems sort of a meager auteurial flourish.

One of the film's strengths is its thrilling frame-by-frame faithfulness. There were many moments of fan-boy joy. The downside of this devotion to the original work is that sometimes that faithfulness left me a little bit cold, like it lacked soul or something. On the one hand, it’s amazing to see some of these static images come to life – even little details like the blood splotch on the smiley face, which I loved. But as my friend Jake put it, this “slavish” devotion to imitation leaves one asking, “Is this just redundant?” Adaptations are supposed to evoke the source material, but they should also transcend them in their own media (think LOTR, Godfather, etc.), otherwise that “slavish” devotion to imitation ends up being solely a novelty, and lacks emotion (especially under Snyder’s not-so-subtle hand).

The big take-away is that Zack Snyder does have a great eye for image and action. But his strengths seem to end with respect to directing actors. For example, the timing and dialogue of Adrian’s “reveal” scene and also of Rorschach’s “face reveal” scenes were off and lacked impact. (A big problem for me, as these are two of the biggest emotional turning points or “big moments” in the book – and in the movie they fell flat.) I also think he could have directed both Rorschach and Doc M to be a bit more “normal” in their flashbacks” to highlight the detachment that both of them suffer over the course of the story. Nuance is one of the notable things that is lost by the removal of the secondary characters and a lot of the visual motifs that dominate the book. It was this nuance – not the plot, which, when broken down to its simplest forms is a pretty generic superhero/sci-fi fabula (which was part of the point) – that made Watchmen noteworthy.

In my wildest dreams, the movie Watchmen would have revolutionized film-making in ways similar to what Moore and Gibbons did with comic book story-telling; the potential was there to use film techniques to say something about film itself, and superhero movies in general. So, in that light, I thought there was a real missed opportunity. I thought there could have been a lot more use of over-lapping audio and images, like during Laurie and Dan’s fight (narrated partly by the television studio scene with Doc Manhattan in the book), or even using match cuts during the transition from present to past (and back) during the funeral scene or during Rorschach’s interview with the prison psychologist.

This missed opportunity is most evident in Doc Manhattan’s scene on Mars, talking about the past, which could have used inter-cutting between past and present scenes and voice-over dialogue to much, much greater effect. (Just on a dialogue level, I really missed the exposition of Einsteinian theory of time, i.e. the multi-faceted jewel that humans are only able to see one side at a time.) I also lamented the absence of the intertwining of Laurie’s flashbacks that lead to the gradual but (literally) shattering realization about Eddie Blake.

I was also a little bothered by what appear to be the character’s super-human strength and fighting ability. Sure, it lends itself to more exciting action, but what is interesting about the book (and part of what it explores), is that these are just real people doing these things. By making Adrian able to throw Dan across an entire room, or break granite with Blake’s head, or the Matrix-style martial arts expertise of all them seems to diminish that. Also, the fights were a bit more drawn out than was necessary. The excessive violence really did not add to the story, and seemed out of place most of the time – not just in its visceral and graphic presentation, but even vis-à-vis the characters who, with the exception of Rorschach, do not in the comic seem to be quite as sadistic, brutal or unforgiving. My problem with this is that the gratuity was not used to improve the story (in contrast, think: the ear in Reservoir Dogs, or the battle scenes in Braveheart and LOTR). And we all have the Wachowski brothers to thank for the extreme slo-mo, but seriously Zack – less is more. Ease up on that shit.

In general, the music choices were mostly poor and in the sex scene in the Owlship, downright laughable. I can’t really imagine any sex scene set to Leonard Cohen’s original version of “Hallelujah” not being something I would howl out loud at.

So, I’ve spent most of this time crapping all over the movie. But really, I did like it and so I’ll spend some space to talk about those things that worked. The opening credits were fantastic. They packed in a lot of background information into a short space in a fun way and to good effect. I thought it was a clever and well-executed way to establish the parallel alternate reality the characters needed to inhabit for the story to make sense.

And the special effects really were pretty stunning. The list is long: the Owlship was great. Rorschach’s mask was even better than I expected it would be (making it into cloth rather than two layers of latex was a great change for the better – but why no origin story for the mask?!) And the rendering of Doc Manhattan’s Mars Palace was magnificent.

The bottom line: flawed, not as good as the comic, fun, entertaining, visually innovative. Pretty much exactly what I expected. I would say that it is clearly the best adaptation of an Alan Moore book to date, but then again, that’s really not saying much.


Monday, February 23, 2009

R.I.P.: Joe "Peeler Man" Ades

We're a couple weeks late on this one, but apparently Joe Ades, known by sight if not by name to most New Yorkers as "that snappy dressing English guy who sells carrot peelers," passed away on February 7th at the age of 75. Joe was one of those New York characters that everyone seems to know, sort of a better dressed version of Radioman. Not a lot was known about Joe, but evidently he made a mint off those $5 peelers - and God bless him, cause he seemed like a damn hard worker and a throwback to a former time. We'll end this post with a little video of some vintage Joe - wherever he is now, we hope he gets to kick back and let someone else do the peeling for a change.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Credit Crisis 101

If you're like me, the last many months of economic news have been 1 part terrifying and 9 parts mystifying. Enter Jonathan Jarvis. He has explained the current credit crisis in a handy, simple to understand flash After Effects* animation. Enjoy:

*Thanks to Flappy Day's friend Dan, of the sadly long-defunct and awesomely-named "Abe Lincoln Was My Homeboy" blog for the short lesson in the difference between Flash and After Effects. We have been schooled.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2222 Toothpicks in a Beard

Well, the title pretty much speaks for itself. The lengths that some people go to entertain themselves (and us!) is pretty intense, but I for one am happy that George made the effort. A bit wasteful, but entertaining nonetheless. Enjoy:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Understatement of the Century

Granted, we're only 9 years in, but I think we have a frontrunner:

3D Porn to Revolutionise Industry

The article speaks for itself.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Brooklyn Yogurt Turf Wars - UPDATE!

Well, that didn't take long. Remember back in August when we reported on the yogurt turf wars that were about to turn the streets of Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn red with strawberry toppings? It appears that the first victim may have finally taken the fall - I was walking home today and noticed that Yogo Monster's lights were off and there was mail pushed under the door. Now, granted, it's cold as shit here in NYC today and no one in their right mind would want a frozen treat. BUT, it just had that "well, we gave it our best shot but now we're just waiting for those dudes to come strip the place before we put up the brown paper on the windows" look to it. Maybe it's the Darwinian economic way of saying "it's not wise to open a frozen yogurt place in the middle of the Fall." Then again, Red Mango is still around and they didn't open till November, so who knows. We will keep you updated. (Or I will keep you updated. Brosephus lives in Atlanta.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

R.I.P.: Ricardo Montalban

It's too bad that the first official post of 2009 (and at the rate we're going, maybe the only post of 2009. Anyone still out there?) has to be an "In Memorium" post, but it's with a heavy heart that I must report that beloved actor Ricardo Montalbán has passed from this earth at the age of 88. He was best known (to me) first as the suave yet creepy host of the visitors to Fantasy Island, a show Brosephus and I were not allowed to watch (although we would sneak an episode in every once in a while, followed inevitably by months of nightmares. Score one for parental foresight.) and second as Khan Noonien Singh (Khan to his friends - and enemies), a villain on the television series Star Trek later to be revived as a villain in the Star Trek movies series, where his Wrath got top billing. I also have a fond early childhood memory of his soothing voice extolling the virtues of Corinthian leather. I hope wherever he is, he's still driving a Chrysler Cordoba. Farewell, Mr. Roarke. Say hello to Tattoo for us.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In 2009, the sky's the limit


Just some cool footage of a bunch of bat-shit insane dudes jumping from cliffs and darting around in flying squirrel suits to end 2008. May your 2009 be prosperous, healthy and unflappable. We will endeavor to post more often in the new year, I'm sure you are waiting with bated breath.